Change happens – but what now?

Today is surely a momentous day. Sen. Barack Obama has won the election and is now the United States’ president-elect.

After an extremely early start and a seemingly endless primary season, it is now done. Over. Finished. In two-and-a half-months, Sen. Obama will be President Obama and Sen. Joe Biden will be Vice President Biden.

Sen. John McCain, with Gov. Sarah Palin onstage, gave his tear-glistened, choked up concession speech as a good sport and like a true gentleman. As for Gov. Palin, we will surely hear from her in the future, perhaps as Sen. Palin.

Sen. Obama’s victory speech was heard in person by a sea of supporters – flag wavers, crying faces and an overwhelmed Oprah Winfrey.

There will be the pitter-patter of little feet in the White House this January – Obama’s daughters and their "well-deserved" new puppy. There will also be the pitter-patter of freshman legislators in Congress.

For Congress, the balance of power tips a little further in favor of the Democrats. Many of us saw this coming; few of us should be surprised.

Is this the new face of the U.S.? Has the momentum shifted toward the Democratic Party? This is hardly reminiscent of the 1994 "Republican Revolution," when Republicans gained more than 60 combined seats in Congress, hundreds of seats in various state legislatures and 12 governorships. Taking into account that 1994 was a midterm election, it makes yesterday’s results even less dramatic. Yes, the pendulum is swinging, but slowly.

This shift in power could more aptly be called an awakening of sorts. Americans across the nation are beginning to realize the same thing. What is it? A polarizing president given unchecked power can wreak havoc across the world? One man can ruin the reputation of his whole party, so much that candidates consider his presence in their campaigns radioactive? This nation needs change that can only be ushered in by a Washington outsider who doesn’t look like any past president?

1994 was a knee-jerk reaction and a quick 180-degree turn in the direction of the nation. The midterm election of 2006 was similar – the electorate raging against the president’s party, but less intensely.

In 1994, the Republicans built their platform out of planks the Democrats didn’t use – welfare reform, a balanced budget and external financial review.

In 2006 and 2008, the Democrats pulled the planks out from under Republicans – the Iraq War, the economy and controlling spending.

Sen. John Cornyn, the incumbent junior senator from Texas, faced a challenge from Texas state representative and Afghanistan War veteran Rick Noriega. As it was a statewide race, Cornyn’s victory in such a sea of red was not much of a surprise. UH alumnus Noriega had a tough time appealing to Texas’ rural areas.

Another friend of UH, Rep. Nick Lampson, lost his re-election bid to Republican challenger Pete Olson. Olson’s victory returns Texas’ 22nd Congressional District, formerly held by Tom DeLay, to the red side.

Locally Harris County held some very tight races, and Democrats gained offices not held by their party for many years.

Thanks to straight-party voting, the Democratic candidates were overwhelmingly swept into most district judge positions.

And Harris County has a new, Democratic sheriff.

The Obama boost helped mobilize Harris County Democrats and ushered in a new era of multi-party rule.

Last night has shown that change is upon us – change in the power structure, at least. Time will only tell if this is the true change that so many voters across the nation are asking for.

Webb, a political science and creative writing senior and Opinion section editor, can be reached via [email protected]

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